News the Prime Minister has finally recognised Britain’s nuclear test veterans has “made the day” of a former serviceman from Hoghton.
George Harrison, 78, of Rhodesway, was an engine fitter for the Royal Engineers stationed on Christmas Island, off the coast of Australia, when he witnessed three test explosions in 1957 - one atomic and two hydrogen bombs.
He considers himself “lucky” not to have been made seriously ill from exposure to the tests, unllike hundreds of other ex-servicemen.
The father-of-one, said: “It’s fantastic news. I’m glad he’s recognised what we did, but it’s taken long enough - we’ve been fighting for it from successive governments.”
Mr Cameron told Parliament: “We should be in no doubt that their selfless contribution actually helped make sure the UK is equipped with the deterrant that we need.”
Mr Harrison said: “Before the bombs went off all we were given was a set of painters overalls, a cap and some darkened goggles.
“We were told to sit down with our backs to the bomb, then when it went off, we could stand up and look.
“You could see the cloud forming, and it was so bright you could see the bones in your hands. I’ll never forget that.”
He added: “A number of lads died shortly afterwards, and many got cancer later. I’m lucky that I’m still walking around, reasonably fit, though I’ve had lots of skin complaints, chest complaints, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had something.”
The British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association is now putting pressure on the government to set up a £25million benevolent fund for veterans.